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PM meets Khamenei, Ahmadinejad

PM meets Khamenei, Ahmadinejad

Tehran: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday met Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during which they discussed Tehran's controversial nuclear programme, Afghanistan, tense situation in Syria and other key bilateral issues, including boosting of trade and economic ties.

Singh, who is here to attend 16th Summit of Non-Aligned Movement, met the President for nearly an hour and raised the issue of highly-tilted bilateral trade relations in favour of Iran and sought more access for Indian goods, including wheat and other items, government sources said.

The two leaders also discussed the nuclear issue and India expressed hope on the progress of P5+1 dialogue, the sources said.

"The Prime Minister hoped that recent negotiations will yield positive results in the interest of peace in the region," they said.

Both leaders reviewed the state of bilateral relations and the importance that both countries attach to strengthening the bilateral relations.

They agreed that there was great potential in strengthening economic relations and economic cooperation.

"The Prime Minister raised the issue of the need for Iran to import more from India to address the trade imbalance. In this regard resumption of exports of Indian wheat to Tehran was stressed by the Prime Minister," sources said.

They also agreed to "facilitate trilateral and bilateral cooperation on Chabahar port, which could serve as an important port of trade and transit for Afghanistan and Cetral Asia.

In a special gesture, the Iranian President also hosted a banquet after the meetings for Singh, the lone leader in the NAM Summit to get this honour. A dinner for all the other participating leaders will be hosted by Iran tomorrow.

In a rare meeting with a non-Muslim dignitary, Ayatollah Khamenei today held discussions with Singh, with the former appreciating the progress made by India in recent years.

During their exchanges on international and regional issues, Singh and Ahmadinejad discussed developments in Afghanistan, Syria and West Asia in general, the sources said.

Agreeing on the need for regular economic consultations for development of Afghanistan, they also empahised the need for international cooperation to effectively combat the scourge of terrorism which poses a great threat to peace and security in the region, they said.

The Prime Minister also conveyed to the President his best wishes to Iran on assuming NAM chair.

The two leaders also exchanged views on NAM, particularly in the context of the importance of the movement in addressing concerns to the membership. During his 40-minute meeting with the Supreme leader, the two discussed situation in Afghanistan and Syria.

"It was felt that there was a need for regular consultations between two countries," they said.

India will set up a cultural centre in Iran. During the meeting, Singh thanked the Iranian government for its consent to open the centre.

Highlighting the close relations of cultural and religion between people of two countries which made a good basis for future cooperation, the Iranian supreme leader said the people of Iran have a positive outlook towards India.

Asserting that it was important and valuable for Iran to have a stable and powerful India, Khamenei believed that religious diversity of India should not harm India's national unity.

They also agreed on the need to do more to advance bilateral relations including in the development of infrastructure projects which have a long-term impact. The back-to-back meetings with Iranian leaders assume significance in view of the US pushing India and other countries to curtail their engagement with Iran to press Tehran on its controversial nuclear programme.

Iran is under four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West's calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Also, the US and its allies have imposed severe sanctions on Tehran hoping to force it to a negotiating table.


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